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ALLOWANCE FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS AMID COVID PUSHED

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has expressed hope that President Rodrigo Duterte would soon green-light the measure giving COVID-related benefits to the country’s healthcare workers (HCWs), retroactive to July last year, and for them to continue receiving such extra pay for as long as the state of public health emergency stays.

Villafuerte issued this statement as he welcomed the ratification by both the House of Representatives and the Senate of their respective versions of the measure granting government and private HCWs a monthly risk allowance, the exact amount of which will range from P3,000 to P9,000, depending on whether these medical frontliners are stationed in low-, medium- or high-risk areas.

 On top of the monthly allowance, HCWs are also entitled to compensation if and when they get sick from COVID-19, the amount of which will depend on whether they get mild, moderate or severe infection or if their sickness results in death.

“We are hoping that President Duterte will soon sign into law the Congress-ratified measure that seeks to institutionalize the grant of this allowance in recognition of the sacrifices being made by our healthcare workers who are at the frontlines of our battle against the lingering coronavirus pandemic,” said Villafuerte.

Villafuerte is one of the authors of the consolidated bill (House Bill or HB 10701) that was passed on third reading by the bigger chamber last January 31. The Senate passed its version (Senate Bill or SB 2421) last Feb. 1.

Both chambers then ratified the final version for President Duterte’s approval before they took a break last Friday ahead of the three-month campaign period for the May 9 national elections.

Both chambers will reopen on May 23 and hold sessions until they adjourn sine die on June 3.

Under the proposed law, HCWs are to receive the same benefits in the event of future public health emergencies.

On top of the monthly allowance, HCWs are also entitled to compensation if and when they get sick from COVID-19, the amount of which will depend on whether they get mild, moderate or severe infection or if their sickness results in death.

Villafuerte said the grant of such extra pay to our medical frontliners was provided for in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act or RA 11469) and Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (RA 11494), which the Congress had passed to strengthen the country’s Covid-19 response and ensure state support for pandemic-hit sectors.

“The expiration of the effectivity of Bayanihan 1 (RA 11469) and Bayanihan 2 (RA 11494) had stood in the way, however, of the full implementation of the Covid-related benefits for our medical frontliners, hence the necessity of enacting this measure into law to make sure that our healthcare workers are able to get their monthly risk allowance for as long as the country remains in a state of public health emergency,” said Villafuerte, who was the principal author of both Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 in the House.

Villafuerte said the benefits  under the consolidated bill, which includes HB 10365 that he had authored, cover both public and private HCWs and would be granted to them during this  period of public health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said this cash benefit will go to both government and private HCWs, and that funding for this allowance is already provided for in the 2022 national budget.

Villafuerte had backed President Duterte’s recent release of P1.185 billion for the special risk allowance (SRA) of medical frontliners as a measure to recognize the sacrifices made by them in the fight against the pandemic, and urged lawmakers to do their part by writing a law that would institutionalize such benefits.

According to reports, the President approved the release of P1.185 billion from the 2021 contingent fund to pay the SRA of medical frontliners who have yet to receive such extra pay.

To ensure that there is always enough funding for health workers’ benefits, Villafuerte said last month that the Congress should swiftly approve the consolidated bill that aims to provide insurance coverage, SRA and other benefits to these medical frontliners.

Villafuerte said the benefits under the consolidated bill, which includes HB 10365 that he had authored, cover both public and private HCWs and would be granted to them during this period of public health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has also filed a related measure, HB 9670, which seeks to amend the existing Magna Carta of Public Health Workers by increasing the rates for their overtime pay and other incentives and benefits.

HB 9670 aims to increase the night shift differential pay of public health workers from 10% to 20% regular wage they receive, and raise the additional amount they get for each hour of work performed between 6 PM and 6 AM the following day from 10% to 20% of such overtime rate.

It also provides for a P300 daily subsistence allowance and P10,000 monthly hazard allowance for each public healthcare provider, along with an increase in the laundry allowance for their uniforms from P125 to P500 per month or higher as may be determined in the future by the health secretary.

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